# How can the speed of light be independent of the speed of the observer [duplicate]

First of all, I saw few similar questions here but most of them address the question of why, when I want to address a question of HOW. Also one question is addressing the same problem but I find it's formulation rather complicated and this makes it difficult to understand the question and answers. When the problem can be described and visualized in much simple way:

Let's consider a spaceship floating under the Earth. There is a source of light and at time 0s the light will reach some point on Earth and the end of spaceship: Then, after 1 second have passed on Earth, we will see the following picture: As we can see, relatively to the Earth the light have made a distance of 300,000 km in 1 second. But relatively to the spaceship the distance is half of that. When explaining how this can happen, usually they say that clock on the rocket will tick slower so speed calculated by folks on the spaceship is the same.

And it sounds believable until you imagine an other source of the light from an other end of the scene: In this case by the same time the light from an other source have made a distance of 450,000 km. So if we use the same time as we did in previous case, the speed must be different.

So how can you imagine\describe the same speed for light from both sources and for both reference frames?

• There is no analogy to day-to-day experiences, because you have no experience with things that happen at sufficient speed to give you a referent. This simply is the way the world really works, and what you think of a making "sense" is an illusion that comes from only considering slow stuff at low precision. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 7 '16 at 19:54
• We get a lot of these questions, where you find a contradiction after applying length contraction and time dilation correctly. That's because there's a third major effect of relativity, called the relativity of simultaneity, which isn't covered in pop science books. You should look that term up for your answer. Basically, the clocks on the Earth and the rocket will disagree on when "0 s" is, and when the pulse of light was emitted. – knzhou Aug 7 '16 at 19:58
• If the speed of light was not the same for all observers, regardless of their velocity, then Maxwell's Equations describing how electricity and magnetism interact would be in trouble, and experiments every day keep reassuring us that they are correct. emc2-explained.info/The-Constant-Speed-of-Light/#.V6eSpYpwbMI – user108787 Aug 7 '16 at 20:01
• @sammygerbil, my question is how can you imagine\describe the phenomena using the thought experiment. Also there is no any answer there explaining how this may happen and how it may look. – Serhiy Aug 7 '16 at 20:17
• @knzhou, when you say "the clocks on the Earth and the rocket will disagree" do you mean the bias? How this may affect the calculation of speed? – Serhiy Aug 7 '16 at 20:18

• @Serhiy Yes, of course. If I (on Earth) observe a spaceship go past at $0.9c$, and a light pulse in the same direction, I will measure their relative speeds as $0.1c$. – tfb Aug 7 '16 at 20:33